Sunday, April 01, 2018

How to understand the British

I was amused to see an article on the internet this week here listing 18 words and phrases which have different meanings on the two sides of the Atlantic.

It reminded me of a "translation table" which is at least fourteen years old, and which I remember seeing a version in the Economist in about 2004: my then boss had a version of it above her desk.

(I was working in BT Global Services at the time and both of us often had to deal with people from other countries, so not being misunderstood by non Brits was rather important.)

Here is my version again ...

What the Brits say
What we mean
What others think they hear
I hear what you say
I disagree and do not wish to discuss it further
He is listening to me
With the greatest respect
You’re being an idiot
She respects my position
That’s not bad
That’s good
That’s a bit disappointing
That is a very brave position
That is insane
He respects my courage
That is an original point of view
That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard
She likes my creative style of thinking
QUITE good (stress on the “quite”)
A bit disappointing
(US)  Very good
(Other) Fairly good
Quite GOOD (stress on the “good”)
Excellent
(US)  Very good
(Other) Fairly good
I would suggest  ...
Do this or be prepared to justify yourself
Think about the idea but it’s your decision
Oh incidentally/by the way
The main purpose of this conversation is ...
This is not very important
Please correct me if I’m wrong
Contradict me at your peril
Tell me what you think
I was a bit disappointed that
I am furious that ...
This is a minor concern
I’m sure it’s my fault that
It’s your fault
He doesn’t blame me
Very interesting
What ridiculous nonsense
She is impressed
I’ll  bear it in mind
I will do nothing about it
He might do this
Possibly through no fault of your own ...
You are in very serious trouble indeed ...
She hasn’t decided who is to blame
This is in no sense a rebuke
I am very cross with you
I am not cross with you
I apologise if I failed to make it clear that ..
You ignored my explicit instructions and it had better not happen again
He is accepting responsibility for the problem
This may interest you
Read this now, mark, learn and inwardly digest it
She thinks I might like to take a look if I have a spare moment
You must come to dinner
I am merely being polite
I will get an invitation
I almost agree
I don’t agree at all
We are close to agreement
I only have a few minor comments
You will need to do a complete rewrite
He has found a few typos
Please think about that some more
Anything from “You haven’t got that quite right” to “That’s crazy, drop the idea!”
She likes the idea and wants me to develop it further
That is a somewhat wild interpretation of what I wrote, but quite perceptive
The worst case could be very much as you suggest, but don’t you dare quote me! 
He thinks this was wild and inflammatory
You’ll get there eventually
My God, you’re slow
She thinks I’m making progress
If you find time, could you please ...
Do this by the end of the day or else
He thinks this would be nice to have but it’s not a priority
Could we consider some other options
I don’t like this proposal
She has not yet decided what to do

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